Finally, the playoffs are here. The regular season (and fantasy football season) has finally come to an end, and only the best 11 teams remain, and the Seahawks.
I must say that my preseason divisional winners were some of my worst predictions yet. I think I missed on just about all of them, but I can proudly say I predicted that Kansas City would win the AFC West, not that I am looking for any praise. My other picks weren't as outrageous (Baltimore, NY Jets, Saints, 49ers) and I think most people were with me on the Cowboys, Packers and 49ers.
Now we have reached the real season for the NFL. The lose and go home theme applies here. This is where kickers become more important, and the change to the overtime rules will first apply. No longer will a field goal in the first few minutes of overtime get you a win (unless the other team already had the ball, or there is no time remaining). Everyone will be up in arms about the difference between the regular season overtime rules and the playoff version of those rules.
There are some very interesting storylines in some of these games this weekend, and everyone will be watching as they unfold.
Obviously this is the game everyone is mulling over. Nobody wants to see the 7-9 Seahawks in the playoffs, especially hosting a game at home against the defending Super Bowl Champions. This has blowout written all over it. Maybe...maybe not.
Seattle has one of the best home-field advantages in the league, and the Saints are a team that loves the indoors, turf, and they aren't exactly a great rushing team. If there is moisture in the air and a wet field, this game will be much closer than people think. The Saints will be the first to tell you that they are not going to overlook any team or take any team for less than what they are. The fact is, not every single player will have that same mental attitude. Guys have been grinding it out for 17 weeks, and some of them might see this as their chance to take it easy.
While I do give Seattle more of a chance in this one than most, I'm not going to give them a victory here. The Saints do what they need to, and are maybe able to rest a few starters late in the fourth quarter.
Saints 35, Seahawks 21
This Saturday night prime time game has had fans salivating all week, and for good reason, as Rex Ryan leads his confident team into Lucas Oil Stadium to face Peyton Manning. Both of these teams had high expectations at the beginning of the season, but neither of them really had a great season. The Jets have been up and down all year, looking really good at times (win in Pittsburgh) and really bad in others (Patriots loss, Bears game). The Colts limped to the finish line, getting victories over the Jaguars, Raiders and Titans just to win the division in the final week. The Colts beat just one playoff team all season long, and they have yet to blow anyone out this year.
Some people would expect a late fourth quarter drive by Peyton at home to win the game, but it will be Mark Sanchez who will be faced with the need for a final drive. The game will be close all the way through, but Sanchez will come up just short in the final drive of the game, and the Colts hold on to win a close one at home.
Jets 21, Colts 24
Three of the four games this weekend list the visiting team as the favorite. This is one of those games, and you can see why. The Chiefs are 0-3 in home playoff games since 1993. The Ravens have won six straight road playoff games, and have the most road playoff wins of any team in the past decade. The Chiefs looked awful against the Raiders in the final week of the season, and that could play a factor in their performance this weekend. The Ravens will look to control the game from the start, and their defense has been playing very well as of late. Ed Reed led the NFL in interceptions again this year, and he missed the first six games of the season while he was injured.
Yes, Kansas City did win the AFC West, but really that isn't much better than the NFC West. The Ravens just missed winning the AFC North and getting the No. 2 seed in the AFC, which means a bye week of course. That is only going to add fuel to their fire, and the nice story that was the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs will end at Arrowhead.
Ravens 27, Chiefs 17
This is, in my opinion, the best game of the weekend. I don't think I am alone in that statement either. This game will have it all, two great quarterbacks, electrifying players, aggressive defenses, cold weather, hostile fans and two coaches who believe they can win it all. The fact is, both of these teams are very capable of making it to the Super Bowl in my opinion. Really, if you take out the Seahawks, I think the NFC is a toss up. All of these teams are good and have proved it throughout the season. This game will surely go down to the wire, as both teams are so evenly matched. Don't worry, this game will definitely live up to the hype surrounding it.
Rodgers vs. Vick, Vick vs. Clay Mathews, Rodgers vs. Asante Samuel, DeSean Jackson vs. Charles Woodson...All of this equals a game that will be decided in the final seconds. I like the clutch factor of Rodgers, but also the elusiveness and big-play ability of Vick and Jackson. I am really torn on this game. Don't rely too much on the score here, as this one could easily go either way. Two great teams playing one great game on Sunday.
Packers 31, Eagles 30
As for everyone that wants to talk about the playoff format and overtime rule changes, I say good riddance. We can't and aren't going to change anything now. Just enjoy the games, because they are going to be great.
Comments that are worth the time will be replied to. Looking to hear your opinions of why Team A will beat Team B. Saying they will do so "because they are better" is not sufficient enough. I'm looking for matchups that you like/dislike and what type of game plan you think the teams will be using. Your predictions are always welcome!